Posts Tagged ‘regency meal’

I am at a conference for the rest of the week. Workshops begin at 8:30 AM. Working backwards, this means I must be up by 5 AM to get washed and dressed, eat breakfast, drive to the training site, set up the workshop room, and be ready to greet participants (without a bleary eye) by 8:15 AM.

Upon reading my statements, early morning risers will think, “What’s so strange about that?” But for those of us who were meant to keep Regency hours, this schedule is akin to torture. I would much have preferred Jane Austen’s hours.

How the English during the Regency era spent their mornings depended on their status. The schedule of the modern day trainer or worker is, in fact, one that a servant in the 19th century would have kept, rising at dawn to haul and boil water, stoke the fires, and get the house in shape before the gentry arose. Unlike  19th century  servants, modern day folks generally eat breakfast before the workday begins. Servants, who had been toiling for at least 3-4 hours making the house ready for the day and tending to the family’s needs, would not break their fast until after the family’s breakfast dishes had been cleared and rinsed.

Ladies in their morning gowns at breakfast. Heideloff, 1794. Image @Fashion Gallery

Mrs. Bennet or Mr. Knightley, both country gentlemen, would rise earlier than their city counterparts, who kept later more fashionable hours. Upon rising at 7 AM, Jane Austen, for example, would not immediately sit down to breakfast. She would write letters or practice on the piano, walk in the garden to pick flowers, or even go into the village to run a short errand before sitting down with her family at 9 AM to partake of a simple breakfast consisting of rolls, breads, butter, preserves, and tea or a pot of hot chocolate. If she were on vacation or at the seaside, she might take a leisurely stroll to the beach or point of interest before partaking of the morning meal at an inn.

Mr. Darcy and Miss Bingley interrupted at breakfast, Pride and Prejudice 2005

Lady Bertram, whose day revolved around pleasing herself, would in all likelihood arise from her bed much later than Jane and remain in her dressing room with her maid until she was suitably dressed. Before breakfast, she would also consult with her housekeeper about the household plans for the day, giving her instructions to relay to the cook about the day’s meals. She might write letters in her boudoir and emerge in her morning gown and cap to eat breakfast with her family, or perhaps have it sent to her rooms on a tray.

Sir Thomas Bertram or Mr. Knightley would also delay breakfast. They might consult with their bailiffs, or check out a new horse at the stable before consuming their morning meal. General Tilney stuck to a strict schedule and had the family eat breakfast at nine. The Middletons, whose house was always filled with guests, ate breakfast at Barton Park around 10 AM. Some families sat down together, while others strolled in during a certain set time, say between 10 and 11 AM let’s say, to help themselves from dishes placed on a sideboard. One imagines that the Tilneys observed the former practice, whereas Mr. Bingley and the Middletons allowed people to wander into the breakfast room at their own pleasure. Edward Austen Knight, Jane’s rich brother, had breakfast served at 10 AM, and expected the entire family to be at the table.

By 11:30 AM, breakfast service was generally over. Town times were much different, and meals were served at a later, more fashionable hour. Often the very fashionable would stick to those hours even when in the country. Lizzie Bennet walked 3 miles to Netherfield Park after breakfast to be with her sick sister, Jane, only to encounter Mr. Bingley’s town guests just sitting down to breakfast over an hour later.

Regency family eating a meal together

The Regency definition of morning differed vastly from ours. Visiting hours were kept at set times. A family might receive visitors on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for example, or on Wednesday, between 11 AM to 3 PM. These hours were considered morning hours. When Anne Elliot arrived at Uppercross Cottage at 1:00 PM, she considered the time to be early in the morning.

Regency ladies wore morning gowns when they were at home. If a lady had no plans to go visiting or receive visitors, and simply stayed at home, she would wear her morning gown well past the hour of three, not bothering to change until dinner, when she was expected to dress more formally. Morning gowns could be made of simple dimity gowns covered by a pinafore if the lady, like Elinor Dashwood or Cassandra Austen at Chawton Cottage, was working in the kitchen or garden, or the gown could be made of finer stuff, like a delicate muslin. Ladies in morning gowns could be seen by family and guests, but they would never dare set foot in public while wearing one.

I must admit to liking Regency hours. On the weekends or on vacations, I rise late and will lounge for hours in my study/dressing room, reading or writing for my blog while sipping coffee. I’ll throw on some clothes and walk my dog Cody, and afterwards will make breakfast. I’ll then hang around the house in my ratty lounge wear, doing a little of this and a little of that, before donning more respectable garments to receive visitors, go out and shop, or visit with friends and family. If I am home all day, I’ll stay in my frayed jeans and tee shirt.

Would that my daily schedule resembled my weekend schedule! But, alas, I must work to earn my dog’s kibbles. The clock tells me I must get dressed now and be out of the door in half an hour. The powers that be decreed that our work day starts anywhere between 7 and 9 AM (even earlier for many). Obviously, considering those hours, our bosses view us more as servants than as revered guests.

I, for one, was meant to be a lady of leisure. Perhaps I shall be reincarnated as one?

More on the topic:

Wilson, Kim. Tea With Jane Austen. Frances Lincoln LTD, ISBN: 9780711231894
Le Faye, Deirdre. Jane Austen: The World of her novels, Frances Lincoldn LTD, ISBN: 9780711222786

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By the end of the eighteenth century, fashionable gentlemen began to dine with regularity in large taverns. As tavern food gained in popularity, the chefs who cooked the fare began to publish their own cookbooks.  These new culinary stars claim not to have learned their trade in a private household, but through methodical study as an apprentice.* The Universal Cook: And City and Country Housekeeper (1792) was written by John Francis Collingwood and John Woollams, the two principal cooks at The Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand. In their cookbook, which had the distinction of also being printed in French*, the two chefs discuss the meats, produce, and fruits that were in season. The foods listed below were common for the month of December:
Beef, Mutton, Veal, Pork, House-Lamb, and Doe Venison.

Geese, Chickens, Wild Ducks, Turkeys, Pullets, Pigeons, Capons, Fowls, Hares, Rabbits. Woodcocks, Snipes, Larks, Teals, Widgeons, Dottrels, Partridges, and Pheasants.

First course

First course

Turbot, Gurnets, Smelts, Cod, Gudgeon, Eels, Sturgeon, Dorees, Codlings, Soles, Cockles, Mussels, Holobets, Bearbet, Carp, and Oysters.

Cabbages, Savoys, Potatoes, Skirrets, Garlick, Rocombole, Brocoli, purple and white; Scorzonera, Salfifie, Celery, Endive, Carrots, Leeks, Beets, Parsnips, Turnips, Lettuces, Cresses, All sorts of small Sallad, Onions, Shalots, Cardoons, Forced Asparagus, Spinach, Parsley, Thyme, and  All sorts of Pot Herbs.

Apples, Pears, Medlars, Services, Chesnuts, Hazle Nuts, Grapes, and Walnuts. The Universal Cook And City and Country Housekeeper By Francis Collingwood, John Woollams

Second course

Second course

Preparing the kitchen garden in December

Collingwood and Woollams also devoted a chapter of their cookbook to the kitchen garden. In December there were few plants that continued to grow, so much of their advice is spent on digging the soil in trenches and preparing it for spring sowing; as well as saving cauliflower, broccoli, and artichokes from hard frost.


DUNGING and digging the ground is the principal business to be done in the kitchen garden this month and laying it in ridges to enrich for sowing and planting after Christmas with some principal and early crops for the ensuing spring and summer Dress your artichoke beds by first cutting down any remaining Items …Pay diligent attention to your asparagus hotbeds to keep up the heat of the beds by linings of hot dung and to admit air in mild days… Take up your red rooted beet on a dry day and let them be placed in sand and under cover for use in case of hard frosts… In all moderate weather give air to your cauliflowers in frames  The Universal Cook And City and Country Housekeeper By Francis Collingwood, John Woollams

The Universal Cook’s Bill of Fare for December describes a two-course meal consisting of 16 dishes and two soups. I’ve listed two recipes from the Second Course that use methods and ingredients that are still common:

diningroom-2005Ragout of Celery (From the Universal Cook)
To ragoo Celery, CUT the white part of the celery into lengths and boil it till it is tender. Then fry and drain it, flour it and put to it some rich gravy, a very little red wine, salt, pepper, nutmeg and catchup. Give it a boil and then send it up to table. The Universal Cook And City and Country Housekeeper By Francis Collingwood, John Woollams

*All Manners of Food, Stephen Mennell, p. 99

Other posts about Regency food on this blog:

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